Book: Australian Wire Strainers

Posted by John Pickard on

"Why does the landscape look like it does?"

This was the deceptively simple question, which marks the very beginning of my journey to understand fences, and ultimately, publish Australian Wire Strainers.

It was the mid-1980s, and I was studying the impact of European occupation on the semi-arid rangelands of western New South Wales. With a research area near White Cliffs, I was unraveling the intersection of European influence, which included changes to the landscape, vegetation, and the history of management changes. A critical element to understanding European influence was the humble rural fences which are essential tools for defining paddocks and managing stock, such as sheep and cattle.

Rural fencing relics

The Australian outback is littered with the sad remnants of derelict fences, lines of old posts and rusty wire. These relics record previous management approaches, and the evolution of fencing and technologies since the 1860s. And hanging in farm sheds and in collections were wire strainers.

To understand Australian rural fencing, you have to understand wire strainers - Donalds Multigrip, Lock-Grip, Walker's, and the generic “chain strainer” - to name a few. During the early years of this research I had no idea how many different types of wire strainers had been invented and used in Australia. And there was no book which described and listed them all.

The idea for a book on wire strainers started to take shape in my mind. The book would be illustrated and with relevant historical information to help tell the stories of strainers.

Lock-Grip Strainer

An image of a Lock-Grip strainer on the website of Museums Victoria (, led me to their Jack Chisholm Fencing Collection, and being granted access to its treasure trove of nearly 300 strainers. During several visits I was able to photograph all of the strainers. And these images form the backbone of the subsequent book.

The patent puzzle: who invented it?

The first question I am asked about an old strainer is its name. The second is "who invented it, and when?" Including such information would be a key part of my book on wire strainers.

Little did I know how many days I would spend in the National Archives of Australia, researching and photographing hundreds of files of colonial wire strainer patents. Thankfully, Australian patents after Federation were easier to find, as virtually all have been digitised by IP Australia.

The patents also allowed me to identify the inventors of many strainers advertised under various trade names.

Publishing Australian Wire Strainers

Despite having published previous books with established publishers, commercial publishers were reluctant to invest in the publishing and distribution of Australian Wire Strainers. Sometimes, being too niche has its downside.

Self-publishing via print-on-demand has allowed Australian Fence Publishing to offer a high-quality book at a reasonable price. And it is already being well received in Australian agricultural circles and by collectors keen to better understand their strainers.

The book, Australian Wire Strainers is published by Australian Fence Publishing, and you can order a copy at the following link:

Buy Australian Wire Strainers | Paperback Edition.


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